Thirty percent of parents have been drunk in front of their kids and nearly 20 percent of children have been embarrassed by their parents’ drinking habits according to non peer-reviewed research recently released by the Institute of Alcohol Studies. The findings suggest that even parents who drink less than a glass of wine per night may be upsetting their children, who don’t have a great understanding of portion control, and that children’s view their guardians as less and less viable role models and caretakers every time they take a swig
“It is worrying that the majority of parents reported being tipsy or drunk in front of their child,” IAS executive and coauthor on the study Katherine Brown told The Guardian. “Parents who have a glass or two of wine in the evening deserve to understand how this might affect their children.”
This is not the first study to find that kids suffer when parents drink. An international review of 99 peer reviewed studies found that, in almost two thirds of cases, parental drinking was significantly associated with at least some harm to children. Meanwhile, parents tend to shrug off alcohol as a harmless adult vice. Of the adults surveyed for the new study, 29 percent told researchers that getting drunk in front of their kids was “harmless.” That is demonstrably and unfortunately false.
The study involved an online survey of nearly 1,000 parents and their children in the UK. All parents included in the study reported drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, the rough equivalent of one glass of wine per night. Despite this modest intake (pedestrian by British standards), 15 percent of children responded on the survey that they had asked their parents to drink less, 18 percent said they felt ashamed of their parents’ drinking, and 12 percent said their parents paid less attention to them while sipping on that wine. Interestingly, children were far more accepting of their parents’ drinking at family celebrations (92.2 percent said that was fine).
This doesn’t necessarily indicate that children are a good barometer for healthy behavior. To the contrary, it indicates that children and adults see alcohol differently and that many children view it as a destablizing force (which it is on multiple levels).
Since the study was survey-based and published without peer review , it’s difficult to parse the significance of this information. And although the researchers did take the helpful step of conducting in-person focus groups after the survey to weed out mischievous responders, it’s hard to say that this study alone is evidence that even responsible parents need to stop drinking in front of their kids. Beyond this study, we don’t have any particular reason to believe that your children begrudge you that one glass of wine. (And if they do begrudge you, send them to their rooms. Everyone deserves a glass of wine).
So the core message is the same as ever: Drink responsibly and in moderation. Or, and this is the other way to read it, just wait until the kids are in bed.